Wiawaka was created by and for women in 1903. It is the oldest and longest continuously operating retreat for women in America.
Wiawaka's founder, Mary Fuller, was the daughter of a Troy industrialist. She was active at St Paul's Episcopal Church and the Troy Young Women's Association (which later became the YWCA). She used her position and wealth to help the young, mainly immigrant, female textile workers employed as shirt collar makers, laundresses and millworkers in Troy and Cohoes.
Troy was at the time known as "The City of Women" because so many were working in the garment industry. The Troy Y and churches provided reading rooms, free instruction, religious training, safe affordable housing, and recreational opportunities for women. Wiawaka made it possible for the "girls" to escape the city and enjoy affordable vacations. In its first summer of operation, 176 guests came, and room and board was $3.50 per week.
Miss Fuller approached her friends Spencer and Katrina Trask of Tuxedo Park, Saratoga and Lake George to help find a location for her retreat. The Trask's purchased an old estate called Crosbyside, an idyllic setting for Mary Fuller's vision. Crosbyside was home to one of the earliest resorts on Lake George, The United States Hotel c. 1850, as well as the site of the founding of the American Canoeing Association. At first they leased, but ultimately the Trasks gave the property to Miss Fuller, who in turn deeded it to Wiawaka. The official transfer of property from Katrina Trask to Mary Fuller was marked by the exchange of one dollar and a bouquet of flowers. From the start, Mary Fuller enlisted the help of other socially progressive benefactresses to raise funds to support Wiawaka's activities and endow "scholarships" for holidays. Miss Fuller remained committed and involved with Wiawaka until her death in 1943.
Wiawaka is proud to share a heritage with Yaddo. The Trask's built their first artists' retreat at Wiawaka - an Adirondack lodge known as Wakonda where students from the New York Arts Club held their first retreat. Georgia O'Keeffe was a registered guest-artist. The Trasks went on to found Yaddo in Saratoga Springs- perhaps America's most respected artists' retreat. Wakonda is the "artists' roost" of Wiawaka and is currently being restored. There is some evidence that Stanford White may have had a hand in the design of Wakonda - as he was at work on Trask's Three Brother's Island estate on Lake George when Wakonda was built.
Though Wiawaka is on Lake George, it was principally founded by women of Troy. To further explore contributions made by Trojan women, consider the accomplishments of: